Bread is an essential part of European diet, so bakeries are plenty. They usually carry similar items such as baguettes of several different grain types and sizes, staples like croissants and pain au chocolat, mini cakes, quiches, cookies, sandwiches and even pizzas. One can walk into a bakery and find their breakfast, lunch or dinner there.
A "hot dog", served on a baguette with a mild cheese inside.
Found in Paul Bakery
However, there are good ones and bad ones. What Mr. Meow has learned was to stick with bakeries that advertise "artisan" in their name. It means that they make their own bread dough. Others, may sell bread made from "pre-packaged" dough and only baked on site, it's nasty, I know, we've tried.
The fancier ones, as in, strictly a pastry shop, may have a tea house attached to it. You can enjoy a cup of brand name steeped tea and a piece (or two) pastries from the shop at an overly inflated price. Price depends on location too. Macarons at Laduree Champs Elysee actually costs more than Laduree in Opera, go figure.
Laduree, Champs Elysee
Selection of items available will also depend on the location. This particular Pierre Herme did not have the famous Ispahan macaron that day. I was TEH disappoint.
Display cases is always so wonderful to look at when passing a bakery. It's colorful, it's fully stocked, it has prices listed for items on display so you don't have to waste yours and their time just to inquire... This is almost the same as a candy store - for both adults and kids.
Fully stocked display cases
Enticing window displays
The pervasiveness of pastries in Paris is just astonishing. Restaurants will have a piece of two of pastry stuff on the menu for dessert. Bakeries line the streets like coffee shops line the streets in Seattle. Even McDonald's have a little off-shoot called McCafe that serves various kinds of pastries for a competitive price. Starbucks also have a considerably better selection of sweets than here in Canada, but at an astronomical price.
$12CAD for all that you see in this picture
The quality everywhere is just amazing. Croissants are just the right balance of butter and dough; pain au chocolat puts in just the right amount of chocolate to be not too strong; pastries are sweet and rich, but not teeth-rotting and heavy; palmier cookies are nicely baked through and an adequate coat of carmelized sugar on top. I have yet NOT to choke on the pastry flakes off a croissant while in Paris, it's just that flaky.
Even big name chain stores get it right.
I've had so much baguettes and baguette-wiches, the roof of my mouth is raw from the crust scratching it.